Defending Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton confessed that he 'made a few too many mistakes' in the water-logged Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, 'destroying' his tyres early on in conditions he described as 'terrible' – but nonetheless coming away with his best result of the 2009 campaign to-date.
As is often the case when the heavens open and the weather turns nasty, Hamilton was on the march from the word 'go', forcing his way energetically past fellow title-winner Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari and Toyota ace Jarno Trulli early on – with two wheels off the road in the latter manoeuvre, in characteristic hard-charging style – but a spin left him with it all to do over again.
On an audacious one-stop strategy and after fighting his way back up the order into fifth place courtesy of some supremely brave overtaking moves – having to pass Raikkonen no less than three times during the course of the race, on one occasion gutsily all the way around the outside of turn seven – an off-piste moment at turn ten shortly followed by a second spin again undid his good work, though the 24-year-old would reclaim sixth spot when Adrian Sutil crashed out just ahead of him five laps from home.
“It was almost too difficult to drive at the beginning of the race,” contended the nine-time grand prix-winner. “It was terrible, but I found a good pace and had some fun in the opening laps when I had some grip. As always, though – and I don't know if it's my driving style or my car – I seem to destroy my tyres very, very early on. Especially towards the end when there were 20 laps left and I'd just come out [of the pits], after just five laps my front-left tyre was finished.
“It was just really tough. It was very slippery – I was aquaplaning all over the place, which was the same for everyone – but I still gave it my best. I made a few too many mistakes, but I'm glad I got some points for the team. Obviously the reliability of the car is fantastic, thanks to a great job by the guys back home. Let's continue to try and move forward and try and score some more points; we got some good points for the team here.”
The Stevenage-born ace was actually pipped to the chequered flag by team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, who produced an impeccable performance having failed to go beyond the opening lap in either Melbourne or Sepang. After passing Rubens Barrichello immediately following the second safety car period and Hamilton when the latter went off-course in the closing stages, the 27-year-old endeavoured to chase down Barrichello for a second time for fourth place – and would up just 1.4 seconds adrift in the final reckoning.
“I didn't really expect anything from this race,” Kovalainen confessed afterwards, “because in these conditions anything can happen – you can win or you can go off very easily. It was just important to try and stay on the track. The tyres worked quite okay, the car worked well, our strategy was spot-on and little-by-little we were able to move towards the front.
“The visibility was unbelievably poor – especially during the first few laps after the safety car came in – but our pace was good. During the last laps of the race, I could get close to Rubens – just not enough to start an attack. Finishing higher than fifth was not possible today, and I'm very pleased to have scored four solid points without making a single mistake – despite some massive moments!
“To finish the race was a relief and a big bonus in such difficult conditions. We are clearly going forwards with the car, which is the most important thing. For the next race we'll have a few more updates and we'll try to do even better. The team is doing a really good job and everything's going fine – we just need that little extra bit of performance, which will eventually come. We will get there, and then we'll be fighting for victories.”